“Right now, it is a toss-up which is the best team, Chelsea or Man Utd” – Harry Redknapp

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I cannot and I will not control the players’ private lives, I am not a police officer to control that. I want to have a very open and direct relationship where I can speak to them very directly. If there is a situation I don’t like, I am firm with them. I don’t like to cover up. Or be a father who is accepting everything. JT said ‘Yes’, maybe they were [out] a bit late but we must not overreact in this. If you drink too much, it will set back your physical condition. Of course, we talked about that. One glass of wine at dinner is not damaging, that’s normal stuff, but they have also their responsibility. I have had this going on with big players [before], I have taken my measures. You have to take your responsibilities, to know what you are doing. They must not repeat conduct that is counter-productive… I don’t know how comfortable a bed is in a police cell so I’m not sure if he [Ashley Cole] rested well or not.” – Guus Hiddink.

Runner-up: “When a player expresses himself in such an entertaining way, defenders don’t enjoy it. It can antagonise and frustrate them and they dish out the treatment… That is the great asset Ronaldo holds. He has this wonderful courage… All the great players have a touch of what you call ‘nice arrogance’ — a belief in themselves… That is a vein that courses through all the great players and they get treatment from defenders. George got it, Johan Cruyff did if you remember the tackles the Brazilians gave him in the 1974 World Cup and it was the same with Maradona and Pelé. I don’t see why I should restrain him. That is the way he plays and I enjoy watching that. I paid £10 million to watch that.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Today’s overview: The hot topics this Saturday centre on the FA Cup and David Beckham’s new deal with AC Milan, while there are a hosts of interesting pieces that include a defence of Arsene Wenger, fears over Setanta and efforts to rid football of dangerous tackles.

The FA Cup sixth round weekend is kicked off by Kevin McCarra who glumly points out the “failure to protect the standing of the FA Cup as a competition that regularly surprises us will come at a steep cost” before offering a solution that “the FA might be wiser to turn the final into a vast fundraising event for charity. For a day at least, the clubs would look nobler even if their sacrifice was not really so severe… [giving] football an afternoon to demonstrate altruism before a watching world.” Ron Atkinson tells the Daily Mail how to improve the stature of the competition. “The fourth Champions League place should be given to the Cup winners – do that and all the importance of it will soon come back.”

Harry Redknapp argues that Chelsea may be the best team in England. “Right now, it is a toss-up which is the best team, Chelsea or Man Utd. It was proved last season in the Champions League final and, although Chelsea have gone through a blip in the league and lost ground, their tails are up again. The imminent return of Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho will also have a huge impact.”

Responding to SAF’s description of Ronaldo as having “nice arrogance,” Ian Herbert is quick to state the case for the opposition. “Others might reasonably argue that Ronaldo’s arrogance is as evident when he does not have the ball at his feet – niggling opponents and officials and indulging in the histrionics which have made him as much a source of frustration as delight this season.”

On David Beckham’s timeshare deal agreed between the LA Galaxy and AC Milan, Paul Doyle flags up that “Beckham is reported to be funding the majority of the undisclosed loan fee agreed between Milan and Galaxy [with] about £2m is said be coming from his own pocket.” Ancelotti “is by no means certain to remain in charge of the team and a new regime might prefer to remodel an ageing squad [and] Beckham’s wages might be more profitably spent on younger talent, especially if — as cynics might suggest — sales of Beckham shirts have already peaked.”

It is left to the LA Times’ Grahame L. Jones to offer the American perspective on the Beckham deal. “On the surface, the Galaxy would appear to be getting very little out of the settlement. But there are benefits. Beckham’s $6.5-million salary will not count against the salary cap until he returns, nor will he count against the 24-player roster limit. That means Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena is free to use the money saved and the position opened to sign another player. Also, with Beckham – or Beckham-lite – back for part of the season, the Galaxy and AEG will be able to keep key sponsors satisfied and, just perhaps, revive flagging season ticket sales. For Beckham, meanwhile, the jet-set lifestyle will continue.”

The red-tops have a couple of speculative transfer stories this Saturday, Vikki Orvice farts that “Juventus are ready to spend £6million to end Deco’s miserable spell at Chelsea,” while the Daily Mirror claim “Arsene Wenger is ready to move for AZ Alkmaar’s £5m-rated Belgian striker Moussa Dembele.”

Cesc Fabregas wrote a column in the Sun in which the Spaniard reports “if everything goes to plan, I will be back in action for Arsenal in four weeks.” And staying with the Gunners, Partick Barclay delivered a passionate defence for Arsene Wenger in the face of recent criticism. “Wenger combined achievement with generosity of spirit. If football is art, he has demonstrated it over and over again, so that, equally, if anyone has made an unanswerable case for patience, it is he.”

In a second article from Barclay in The Times, the journalist sat down with Michel Platini to listen to how the Uefa president is determined to implement a plan to limit clubs’ spending on players, no matter how long it takes.

In an article which begins with the car-crash sentence “We have had the Grammys and the Emmys — now welcome to the Terrys,” the forever tanned El Tel names his top performers of the year. “As equally comfortable on the wing as he is playing in the hole behind the strikers, Milner has been brilliant for Aston Villa this season.”

Rumours over Setanta’s inability to meet their financial commitments to football leave Paul Kelso to fear for the worst. “Should Setanta fail, the pain will not to be restricted to bodies with which it has contracts… There are concerns that Setanta’s woes mirror the ITV Digital collapse, but the Irish broadcaster’s presence in the market has helped the League drive revenues back to close to the levels promised back in 2001.”

Des Kelly calls for football to stamp out dangerous tackles, while admitting the difficulty for referees using Cristiano Ronaldo as exhibit A. “Cristiano Ronaldo is a perfect case in point. I watch him being kicked by opponents in every match and I see referees wave away perfectly deserved free-kicks time and time again. But he expends so much energy falling over and overdramatising contact on other occasions it’s no surprise officials cannot unravel real from fake… If managers want a cleaner game, they can begin by dealing with their own dirt.”

Mocking the reaction of the use of an iPod in the Carling Cup final, Giles Smith dreams up other inventions which football should introduce. “One software company is looking at developing a pair of goalkeeping gloves with free internet access that can also record videos and upload them directly to YouTube.”

In the Saturday interviews, Dominic Fifield gets the views of Danny Murphy ahead of the visit of Manchester United in the FA Cup, Gael Clichy talks to Paul Doyle about Arsenal’s ropey season and Wenger’s future, Alan Smith has a chin-wag with Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, Chris Coleman tells

the man Sir Alex Ferguson sends into key matches against Chelsea and Inter Milan, utilising his energy levels to win the battle in midfield”)The quality of football in the Championship has not improved for years. It’s parasite football. You play off the mistakes of other people. It’s a bite, b*****k and bark division. You press in midfield, win the first header, you win the second ball and you win your battles. If you don’t win your battles, you’ll get ridden over… There are no outstanding teams in this division.”

Heading to Brazil, Tom Phillips picks up on the return of Ronaldo and is left wondering “If we take away this (shameless) marketing ploy there is nothing left – just the flabbiness and the ridiculous.”